What Lynyrd Skynyrd once did for Confederate flag-waving rednecks, and what Dropkick Murphys now do for beefy Boston guys with shamrock tattoos, Jonathan Burks does for defiantly irresponsible and grumpy Milwaukee barflies on his third album, Loudmouth Soup (which is available at his CD release show Saturday at Y-Not III). “I don’t want no part of no fashionable scene,” Burks sings on “Take This Genre,” summing up textbook Milwaukee contrarianism like ol' Ronnie Van Zant used to stick it to uppity Yankees. Simultaneously offering himself up as a walking caricature, symbol of civic pride, and man-size middle-finger to judgmental out-of-town elitists, Burks embodies everything that makes you gush and/or cringe about our city—he’s aggressively blue collar, he’s painfully wary of pretension, and he drinks way, way too much. His lyrical pose is that of the self-styled loser with the shit-eating grin, and he sings in a gloriously deadpan drawl that's reminiscent of a slurring, honky-tonk Jonathan Richman. For Burks, “I’m Drunk” isn’t just a song title—it’s a mission statement.
Sadness and desperation are at the core of Loudmouth Soup—see the remorseful piano ballad “Twelve Steps,” which, perhaps not coincidentally, clocks in at 4:20—but Burks and his able backing band comprised of Milwaukee music scene mainstays (including members of The Championship, Wooden Robot, and China Pig) can’t bear to take it on too directly. Rather, they try to chase it away with a big, sloppy racket, drawing on the meat-and-potatoes classic rock and country sounds that dominate neighborhood tavern jukeboxes. (Burks also raps on the incredible “It’s On,” though his flow is closer to Craig Finn than Lil Wayne.) You wonder how everyone is going to feel when Sunday morning inevitably comes down, but, for now, Burks can make lines like, “Hell, I’ve got nothing to live for, brother, pass that bottle ’round,” sound almost hopeful.